Sony just announced the PlayStation 4, along with some high level system specifications. The high level specs are what we've heard for quite some time:

  • 8-core x86-64 CPU using AMD Jaguar cores (built by AMD)
  • High-end PC GPU (also built by AMD), delivering 1.84TFLOPS of performance
  • Unified 8GB of GDDR5 memory for use by both the CPU and GPU with 176GB/s of memory bandwidth
  • Large local hard drive

Details of the CPU aren't known at this point (8-cores could imply a Piledriver derived architecture, or 8 smaller Jaguar cores—the latter being more likely), but either way this will be a big step forward over the PowerPC based general purpose cores on Cell from the previous generation. I wouldn't be too put off by the lack of Intel silicon here, it's still a lot faster than what we had before and at this level price matters more than peak performance. The Intel performance advantage would have to be much larger to dramatically impact console performance. If we're talking about Jaguar cores, then there's a bigger concern long term from a single threaded performance standpoint.

Update: I've confirmed that there are 8 Jaguar based AMD CPU cores inside the PS4's APU. The CPU + GPU are on a single die. Jaguar will still likely have better performance than the PS3/Xbox 360's PowerPC cores, and it should be faster than anything ARM based out today, but there's not huge headroom going forward. While I'm happier with Sony's (and MS') CPU selection this time around, I always hoped someone would take CPU performance in a console a bit more seriously. Given the choice between spending transistors on the CPU vs. GPU, I understand that the GPU wins every time in a console—I'm just always an advocate for wanting more of both. I realize I never wrote up a piece on AMD's Jaguar architecture, so I'll likely be doing that in the not too distant future. Update: I did.

The choice of 8 cores is somewhat unique. Jaguar's default compute unit is a quad-core machine with a large shared L2 cache, it's likely that AMD placed two of these together for the PlayStation 4. The last generation of consoles saw a march towards heavily threaded machines, so it's no surprise that AMD/Sony want to continue the trend here. Clock speed is unknown, but Jaguar was good for a mild increase over its predecessor Bobcat. Given the large monolithic die, AMD and Sony may not have wanted to push frequency as high as possible in order to keep yields up and power down. While I still expect CPU performance to move forward in this generation of consoles, I was reminded of the fact that the PowerPC cores in the previous generation ran at very high frequencies. The IPC gains afforded by Jaguar have to be significant in order to make up for what will likely be a lower clock speed.

We don't know specifics of the GPU, but with it approaching 2 TFLOPS we're looking at a level of performance somewhere between a Radeon HD 7850 and 7870. Update: Sony has confirmed the actual performance of the PlayStation 4's GPU as 1.84 TFLOPS. Sony claims the GPU features 18 compute units, which if this is GCN based we'd be looking at 1152 SPs and 72 texture units. It's unclear how custom the GPU is however, so we'll have to wait for additional information to really know for sure. The highest end PC GPUs are already faster than this, but the PS4's GPU is a lot faster than the PS3's RSX which was derived from NVIDIA's G70 architecture (used in the GeForce 7800 GTX, for example). I'm quite pleased with the promised level of GPU performance with the PS4. There are obvious power and cost constraints that would keep AMD/Sony from going even higher here, but this should be a good leap forward from current gen consoles.

Outfitting the PS4 with 8GB of RAM will be great for developers, and using high-speed GDDR5 will help ensure the GPU isn't bandwidth starved. Sony promised around 176GB/s of memory bandwidth for the PS4. The lack of solid state storage isn't surprising. Hard drives still offer a dramatic advantage in cost per GB vs. an SSD. Now if it's user replaceable with an SSD that would be a nice compromise.

Leveraging Gaikai's cloud gaming technology, the PS4 will be able to act as a game server and stream the video output to a PS Vita, wirelessly. This sounds a lot like what NVIDIA is doing with Project Shield and your NVIDIA powered gaming PC. Sony referenced dedicated video encode/decode hardware that allows you to instantaneously record and share screenshots/video of gameplay. I suspect this same hardware is used in streaming your game to a PS Vita.

Backwards compatibility with PS3 games isn't guaranteed and instead will leverage cloud gaming to stream older content to the box. There's some sort of a dedicated background processor that handles uploads and downloads, and even handles updates in the background while the system is off. The PS4 also supports instant suspend/resume.

The new box heavily leverages PC hardware, which is something we're expecting from the next Xbox as well. It's interesting that this is effectively how Microsoft entered the console space back in 2001 with the original Xbox, and now both Sony and MS have returned to that philosophy with their next gen consoles in 2013. The PlayStation 4 will be available this holiday season.

I'm trying to get more details on the CPU and GPU architectures and will update as soon as I have more info.

Source: Ustream

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  • sohcermind - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    Remember a console can dedicate all its resources to graphics so a 7800gtx on pc game won't compare to the PS3 graphics just look at Uncharted 3 for example. So likely the PS4 will outmuscle anything you can do on a 7970m.
  • RussianSensation - Friday, February 22, 2013 - link

    I never said it's impossible but it would make the console a lot larger, more expensive to cool, etc. I realize that PS3/360 consoles drew 200-240W of power when they launched. For cost reasons the CPU+GPU are on the same die. That alone means going with a discrete GPU option like HD7870 would have cost a lot more money. At the end of the day Sony is not the company it used to be. It cannot afford to sell an $800 (original BOM for PS3) console for $600 in this market. Not only can they not afford such losses on the hardware but the market will refuse to buy a $599 console.
  • gruffi - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    No, it's vice versa.
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    A generation behind? If you are referencing Titan, it is in no way comparable to what goes into consoles. Looking past the fact that nVidia doesnt have an integrated GPU solution (As they do not make CPU's), nVidia's mobile chips are certainly not a generation ahead of what AMD has. I would actually give AMD the edge in mobile GPU's.
  • sirroman - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    If it's confirmed to be GCN, you are wrong.
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    AMD's best CPUs lag behind Intel's right now, but that's not saying anything-they're still crazy powerful compared to anything else.

    The issue is that this ISN'T AMD's best CPU design, it's the successor to Bobcat, a (better than) Atom competitor. Remains to be seen how that does (Microsoft's using the same thing).

    Still, it'll be a lot faster than we have now.

    I'll be SUPER disappointed if this doesn't have full backwards compatibility, and also if it has a WIi U-style controller that doesn't work with it's battery dead or pulled.
  • HammerStrike - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    I've never understood the obsession with backward compatibility. For one, unless you have a library of games, it's not important, and if you have a library of games you already have a PS3. If you already have a PS3 just keep it to play your old library of games. Problem solved. Two, I would much rather have $100-$200 less in parts, and, by extension, retail price of the console and no backward compatibility then vice versa. And no, you are not going to run PS3 games on the PS4 in emulation, so that is not an option.
  • Belard - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    Simplicity. That is why.

    So you don't have 3-4 consoles plugged into the TV. Personally, in my household - we have a Wii on a kids TV. A PS2 on the main TV. We are waiting for the PS4... I don't see the point of spending $250 for a PS3 when that can go towards the PS4. But, we would love to play some PS3 titles on the same same PS4 console.

    That would be better than buying a used PS3 for $150 and sucking up space... both with the Console itself, the controllers, cabling, etc.

    Its bad enough we'll still have the PS2 for now.

    The horse power of the PS4 should allow PS2/PS3 gaming through emulation.
  • poohbear - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    how are they behind intel exactly? have u seen the newest game engines? in BF3 and MoH Warfighter AMD & Intel are neck and neck, its only for older single threaded games that intel beat AMD out. Any new game that's multi threaded doesn't matter. I imagine with all PS4 games using similar modern engines like Dice's Frostbite Engine 2.0 that AMD or Intel would be neck and neck in CPU performance.
  • ShieTar - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - link

    AMD may be head to head with and sometimes even in front of a same-price intel core processors, but not nearly with a competitor at the same TDP. Apparently Sony decided the price is more important, and will live with the bigger/noisier design that the higher power consumption of the AMD cores brings with it.

    Or they just know that AMD needed this deal badly, and like the leverage this gives them.

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